This blog post was first published in 2014, but is as timely as ever. Enjoy!

Speak Your Mind Even If Your Voice Shakes
Although I’m far from ever being labeled as “shy,” I still have to gather my courage before speaking up for myself. Why? I think it’s simply human nature to want to smooth things over and not make waves.

I look back on times and events that I regret in my life, and I mostly identify when I did not speak up for myself or my children. The fourth grade teacher who was consistently negative and oddly punitive towards my son. I once asked her if she had anything positive to say about my son, and she simply stared me down without saying a word. All the other parents said she was “a great teacher, if you have a girl.” (Just writing about it makes me white hot with rage!) And by the way, her main complaint about my son was that he wiggled in his seat and looked out the window.

But I’m older and wiser now, and realize that addressing the issues with the teacher wasa battle I should have chosen. But at the time, I feared she would be even worse to my son if I confronted her with my concerns. I deeply regret this.

Luckily, my current life is pretty smooth, although there still seem to be times when I have to take a deep breath, gather my courage and speak my mind.

I went in for my annual work evaluation yesterday. The paperwork goes into my human resources file, and is as close to that dreaded permanent record as is likely at this phase of my life. Although I’ve been in the same hospital-based RN job for 19 years, these meetings always give me a case of the jitters. I sat down and noticed that I was being being marked as having “met” rather than “exceeded” at my job. And although “met” is considered perfectly acceptable, I felt the need to speak up.

I explained to my boss, (who is kept busy with meetings, and doesn’t ever see me in action) that I felt that I earned the “exceeded” label. That I hold myself to a very high standard, that I work to support a positive work environment and that I try to be the nurse I wish I was working with. She listened to what I said, and then changed my rating.

It made me nervous to speak up for myself, but I did it anyway.

And this morning, I sat down to read through my e-mails, and sent out three very carefully worded e-mails that I would have much preferred to procrastinate or simply delete. Emails that required me to bypass my natural inclination to shy away from sticking up for myself. But because they were in written form, none will be the wiser that my voice was shaking; but yes, it was.

I often think of the popular bumper sticker quoting grey panther Maggie Kuhn, encouraging people to “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” (I know that anything translated to a bumper sticker format immediately becomes trite, but I find inspiration in it anyway.)

How does this relate to non-consumerism?

By choosing a less traditional life, there are inevitable uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s telling a family member that you want to tone down Christmas or simply declining expensive invitations. Or even just living a simple life that sometimes does require you to explain your decisions, even when it’s no one’s business but your own.

So please non-consumers, speak your mind. Even if your voice shakes.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 21, 2017 · 122 comments

  1. I sold a vintage Descoware saucepan on eBay that I’d picked up at Goodwill awhile back. I bought it for $6.99 and sold it for $39.99, so that’s a nice chunk of free money. I even arranged for a free porch pickup through USPS to save an errand to the post office. Of course, I packed up the box using freebie bubble wrap.
  2. I made my Women’s March protest sign from a free cardboard box. It read “Never Normalize Trump!” It costs nothing to stand up for my citizen rights. Nazi-era Jews didn’t have this right, but I do.
  3. My mother treated us to dinner tonight, which included enough leftover food to bring as tomorrow’s work lunch. Thanks, mom!
  4. My son came home for the weekend, and we were able to find used copies of two required textbooks at Powell’s Books. I even had enough on a gift card to cover the cost!
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 18, 2017 · 135 comments

  1. After writing that I was happy to not spend the night at work due to inclement weather, I did end up spending the night at the hospital due to a forecasted ice storm. This one took me by surprise, so I didn’t have the forethought to pack up toiletries and the like. Luckily, I was able to scrounge for food, beg a $5 food voucher off my charge nurse and sleep in an empty patient room. I gotta say that I was ecstatic to finally leave the hospital after having arrived 36 hours earlier.
  2. I received another article assignment from Clark Howard, and will start the research for it this afternoon. It’s good to make money in my spare time.
  3. I called my senators and congressmen just now to encourage them to fight tooth and nail against the appointment of Betsy DeVos, who I consider to be wholly unqualified to lead the department of education. Citizen involvement doesn’t cost a penny, yet can make a big difference for the people of this great country.
  4. I took blank paper to create large calendar pages for the months of February and March. I know I could buy a desk calendar at Office Depot, but I’d rather make one using what I already have on hand. I saw that March is another five paycheck month for my family, which prompted a loud “whoo-hoo,” and may or may not have startled the cats.
  5. I cobbled together a yummy dinner of grilled cheese with sautéed onions last night, I continue to use the single $30 silicone menstrual cup that I bought nine years ago, I read a library book while off the clock at work, I didn’t buy a Lear Jet and I didn’t buy a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 15, 2017 · 126 comments

  1. Those of us in endlessly icy Portland have been going stir crazy, so I invited my mother and step father over for dinner as they hadn’t driven anywhere since last Wednesday. Although our meal was simple, (hamburgers and green beans, with digestive biscuits for dessert) the company was great. We watched the first episode of HBO’s The Young Pope afterwards, as I have free HBO until March.
  2. I have to work the next two days at the hospital, but unlike last week I’ll drive home between shifts. (I was so exhausted and dehydrated after spending 38 straight hours inside the hospital!) I’ll bring a travel mug for the free coffee and tea and use a free $5 hospital food voucher for my lunch break. (Yay, free food!) I also have an extra five hour mini-shift scheduled for later in the week which will bolster my next paycheck. Edit: Due to forecasted freezing rain, I ended up having to spend the night at the hospital again. NO FUN!
  3. I wrote and submitted another Clark Howard article and then submitted a couple new article ideas.
  4. I walked to Fred Meyer this afternoon and somehow avoided falling on the ice and cracking my head open. (No emergency room bill for me!) I picked up a few items for my mother and bought just simple ingredients for meals. I did splurge on a 50¢ bag of peanut M&M’s, but only because they were on sale. Peanuts are in the same legume category as lentils, right?
  5. My husband and I went to his workplace awards gala last night, which was held in a sweeeeet fancy hotel. (Yay, more free food!) We didn’t end up drinking any alcohol, and they gave us vouchers for free parking. We came home, changed into comfy clothes and then watched an episode of Grantchester, or as I call it, “The Yummy Vicar.” I think that I may have been warped as a middle schooler from watching The Thorn Birds. Because there’s no other reason why this Jewish middle-aged woman should want to watch sexy Christian priest TV shows. Please tell me that I’m not the only one!

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 14, 2017 · 66 comments

  1. I remembered that I had a nice Gap boy’s coat that I’d picked up last summer as a garage sale leftovers freebie. New ones sell for up to $105, so I listed mine for $20 and hope to do a quick turnaround thanks to the frigid Portland weather. I kind of wish this insanely warm coat was my size!
  2. I baked up a loaf of English muffin bread from a recipe that my friend Lise said was both delicious and easy. My plan had been to have toast and runny fried eggs for dinner last night, but instead I had a couple pieces of freshly baked bread with butter and then conked out for the night. I guess I was tired from my 38 hours of working-sleeping-working at the hospital! If I were to make this bread again I’d use less salt.
  3. I finally sold a thrifted bike that’s I’ve had on Craigslist since Christmas eve. I think that the snowstorm-icestorm-snowstorm has kept people from running unnecessary errands. I’ve had three or four people who’d enquired about it so I knew it would sell eventually, so it’s nice to get it out of our dining room and back onto the road.
  4. I’m continuing to eat down a huge batch of white bean-ham soup that used up the last of our Christmas ham. Today’s lunch should be the last of it which’ll be a relief as I’m pretty sick of it at this point. #TakingOneForTheTeam
  5. I used my Buy Nothing Group to give away a small insulated bag that someone dropped in front of house, (I tried, but was unable to find the owner) I turned the heat down from 63° to 65°, I helped myself to a small blank notebook from my son’s room for my to-do lists as I’d filled up the last one, I saved a $5 hospital food voucher for my next work shift instead of treating myself on my way out as I was tempted to do, I didn’t buy a Lear Jet and I didn’t buy a vulgar gold plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 13, 2017 · 80 comments

  1. I’ve had a crazy couple of days, as Portland was gifted with a foot of snow that essentially shut down our quirky city. However, as a hospital based labor and delivery nurse my workplace can’t exactly put up a “closed for inclement weather” sign. All of this added up to me working my scheduled Wednesday and Thursday 12-hour shifts, but having to sleep in an empty patient room with the knowledge that I might get kicked out in the middle of the night. (Luckily, I kept my squatter’s rights and slept well.) I brought extra food, plus was given a $5 cafeteria voucher which covered a hearty breakfast. A library book kept me busy, and my ever present travel mug enjoyed multiple cups of the free tea. I was happy to collapse into my own bed last night, but I slept well knowing I’d spent no extra money. And I may or may not have set myself up in stirrups to send a photo to my sister. What can I say? You can’t be in my particular job without a wacky sense of humor!
  2. I called to confirm that all was on track to receive my $1.25/hour bonus for working over 800 hours in 2016. I spoke with a human resources rep who told me that I’d worked 934 hours and would be enjoying the money in my next paycheck. Schweet!
  3. My husband has a work banquet tomorrow night that includes a fancy meal. I’ll be enjoying the free food, but booze will be self-pay, so we’ve already discussed that we’ll pre-func to enjoy beers in the parking lot together as the very cheapest of dates before we enter the hotel. Yeah, you know you’re jealous of my glamorous life!
  4. I helped my mother clean one of her guest cottages the evening that it started snowing. The snowflakes were just starting to drift down from the sky when I left the house so I stopped into Trader Joe’s for milk, butter, eggs, cereal, bananas, hummus, flatbread, tortillas and chips. I spent just $23, and I left for work knowing that the essentials for covered. My mother paid me a bit extra, which she referred to a “combat pay” as there was already six inches of snow on the ground by the time I drove home. Thanks, mom!
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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{ 80 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 10, 2017 · 134 comments

  1. After a weekend of iced over roads, I finally drove my younger son back to college. He had to switch dorm rooms, which unfortunately means he’s now in a teeny tiny room as opposed to the 3-person room that he’d been sharing with a single other roommate. We’ll get a small refund as a result.
  2. I found a nickel on the ground in the housing office and a penny on the ground outside of Trader Joe’s. Hey, that college tuition is not going to pay itself!
  3. I batched errands while running my son to college which included Dollar Tree, (pinto beans, white beans, salt and garlic powder) Trader Joe’s, (nothing but toilet paper) and Costco (cat food, yeast and gasoline.) After three days of barely leaving the house, it felt good to be out, about and semi-productive.
  4. My son and I ate dinner in the dorm cafeteria using his meal plan points. All classes had been cancelled yesterday due to the icy conditions, so I knew he’d have extra points on his card. I brought a travel mug which I filled up with coffee for the two-hour solo drive back home. I gotta say that college food is a million times better now than when I matriculated back in the mesozoic era.
  5. I updated our budget, (which is key to deliberate spending) I answered a couple of short surveys on Swagbucks*, I proposed a couple of Clark Howard article ideas and got one new assignment, I’m cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages tonight, I’m wearing my recently darned socks, I’m cooking navy beans in the crock pot for soup and I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a tacky AF gold plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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*Oh yeah, this is an affiliate link. But hello . . .  it’s for Swagbucks which is free money!

{ 134 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 8, 2017 · 96 comments

  1. My husband I accidentally both defrosted some nice roast beef, so I decided to serve French dip for dinner. Unfortunately we were out of yeast, so I texted my friend/neighbor Lise to ask if she had some I could borrow. I normally pay $6 for a 2-lb bag of yeast from Costco, so it’s financially painful to fork out the bucks for the expensive little packets. Not only was I able to delay this purchase, but it also kept me from having to venture out too far into the snowy abyss that is Portland, Oregon.
  2. Although I’m not doing an official no-buy January, I’ve yet to buy anything other than groceries. I did indulge in a big shop at my local Fred Meyer (Kroger) yesterday to stock up before the storm, but only spent $30, even though I bought three full bags of groceries. (Bread, milk, butter, apples, tangerines, onions, ketchup, hamburger, marshmallows, yogurt, cereal and chips.)
  3. I finished one library book and started another.
  4. My husband drove our older son the 5-1/2 hours to college and then turned right back around to drive the 5-1/2 hours home. We normally get a hotel room when we do this trip, but the impending winter weather put a damper on this plan. So . . . we saved the cost of a motel room! Luckily my husband had a free coffee credit on his Starbucks account, so he ordered a venti latte with two extra shots for his solo drive home!
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a gold plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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Could You Do a No Buy January?

by Katy on January 6, 2017 · 31 comments

This blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

January 1st is an opportunity for a clean slate, and for most people that means the traditional new year’s resolution to eat less, exercise more and get organized. But if you’re a Clark Howard fan, your resolutions likely lean towards a financial theme such as “spend less and save more.” However, for a growing number of Americans, this vague goal is simply not enough. Enter the wildly popular No Buy January, which is sweeping across the blogosphere.

No spend January resolutions go by a number of different names such as Uber Frugal Month, Fiscal Fast or January Money Diet, but the idea is the same. Spend the month of January buying just the absolute essentials. Yes, you can buy food, medication and pay your bills, but gone are restaurant meals, recreational shopping and all those pick-me-up lattés. You’re also encouraged to take a look at what you consider “essential” and trim that down as well.

The popular Frugalwoods.com blog has signed up thousands of readers for their Uber Frugal Month, which challenges readers to:

  1. Examine all of your spending.
  2. Categorize mandatory vs. discretionary expenses.
  3. Identify areas where you can reduce or eliminate spending–and then do it!
  4. Go as frugal as you possibly can for one whole entire month.
  5. At the end of the month, identify what level of frugality is feasible for YOU to embrace for the longterm.

FrugalBeautiful.com adds in to “declutter, donate and repurpose,” which brings in all those who resolve to organize their way through 2017.

When asked if they were participating in a no spend January challenge, members of The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group answered in the affirmative.

  • “YES! My second year. This year I am focusing on eating food already in the house, and no clothes, accessories, or etc. And I am not stocking up in advance – just drawing down overstocks and not extras”
  • “I am keeping it to using what we have in our pantry and deep freezer. I will need to get staples like milk, bread, eggs but I have a grocery gift card I can use. Will use time to declutter and sell some unneeded things. I also plan to catch up on reading some library books, go on long walks with hubby, watch library rented movies, make cookies with frozen dough, or play board games with kids.”
  • “Packing lunches, no coffee out, only going to free activities if near. Game nights and movie nights at home with popcorn and fudge instead of going out. No clothes or anything else bought except for necessities but I think I will have everything bought in this last grocery trip to cover what we will need for the month.”

Despite any and all best intentions, December is a challenging month to stay on budget, which is why devoting January to extreme frugality holds such timely appeal. A detox from gluttonous holiday overspending in the name of financial stability. Want to join the No Buy January movement but don’t know where to start? You can always sign up for The Frugalwood’s Uber Frugal Month e-mail a day for ideas and inspiration.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Yesterday was my 49th birthday, which prompted my family of four to brave the cold and wind for my Birthday Day of Adventures. We’re laughably broke since we just paid $15,500 for our sons’ winter college tuition/room/board, so our day had a very specific theme of:

Fun, but cheap. Really cheap. No seriously, this needs to be cheap. Cheap!

  1. We drove to the big Costco that features an indoor eating area. The four of us each ordered one of their famous $1.50 Polish dogs, which comes with a soda. I rarely if ever drink soda, so I treated myself to a half cup of root beer, which is my favorite. Money spent: $6.00
  2. We then popped over to the nearby Ikea where we each enjoyed a free coffee, thank to the Ikea family program. Money spent: $0.
  3. We pointed our minivan towards downtown Portland, stopping along the way at Voodoo Donuts for our free dozen donuts. (I used a gift certificate for a free dozen donuts per month.) Money spent: $0
  4. We then went to The Oregon Historical Society Museum, which is free for Multnomah County residents. They had an amazing exhibit on Comic City, USA, which was so amazing that we didn’t get to even a single other area of the museum! Money spent: $0
  5. Although we could have walked, the horrifically cold wind put us back into the minivan, where we drove over to Powell’s City of Books to wander around the stacks. I spent $15 from a gift card that’s been gathering dust in my wallet to buy a pound of locally roasted coffee beans. The check-out guy laughed at my purchase, saying that “Hey, I guess we do sell everything!” To which I replied, “This is my new plan to sell books for groceries.” Money spent: $0
  6. The next stop was the Regal movie theater inside of Pioneer place, as I had a pass to see a free screening of A Monster Calls. Unfortunately, the movie was booked into a very small 116 seat theater, so we weren’t able to be seated. The PR rep felt sorry for me, and took my information and told me that she was going to send me four movie vouchers to be used for a movie at a later time. Yes, we waited in line for nothing, but I was able to score a free bag of popcorn as it was my birthday month. (I’d apparently signed up for a the Regal Rewards program at some point.) Plus, the company was good. Money spent: $0
  7. Our last stop was at the Pho Oregon restaurant across town, where we enjoyed huge steaming bowls of Vietnamese soup. My younger son and I shared a single bowl, which was plenty for the two of us. Money spent: $33.
  8. Stomachs sated, we finally headed home, changed into pajamas and stuck a candle into a donut for a rousing chorus of “Happy birthday to you.” We watched the movie Tracks on Netflix, which was a treat since it simply never happens that the four of us sit down to enjoy the same movie. Money spent: $0

I dedicated the $19 that from my 2016 Found Change Challenge to the day, so our out of pocket expenses came to $14, plus $6.60 in parking fees. I’d have to say that $20.60 is not too shabby for an entire day of birthday adventures. Even for the laughably broke.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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